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Luann’ Comic Strip Creator Premieres New Musical In Vista

Greg Evans Debuts ‘A Boy And A Girl’

Evening Edition

Aired 8/29/14 on KPBS News.

KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando sat in on a rehearsal of 'Luann" creator Greg Evans' newest musical, “A Boy and a Girl.”


You might know Greg Evans as the creator of the comic strip "Luann." But Evans, a San Marcos resident, has also written three musicals including, “A Boy and a Girl,” which premieres at the Vista Broadway Theater this weekend.

When Greg Evans was growing up he heard the soundtrack from "The Music Man" over and over and over again.

"It became my favorite thing, to listen to that album," Evans explained during a rehearsal break at the Vista Broadway Theater.

So while Evans pursued a career in comics and created the award-winning "Luann" strip, he maintained a love for musicals.

"The fun thing about working with theater is it’s collaborative. Because doing a comic strip is a solitary, lonely profession. And I write stuff and draw stuff and out it goes and I never hear any laughter. You come to the theater and you get to hear people laugh, it’s really rewarding."

This weekend Evans is looking forward to hearing that laughter as his new musical “A Boy and a Girl” premieres on the Vista Broadway Stage.

Actress Sarah Errington, who plays Jane, says it’s a love story but not a typical one.

"It’s also a story about people who didn’t find love right away," Errington said. "It’s about two people who grew up knowing each other, and so obviously it didn’t start with a romantic sort of attraction... or attraction at all. In fact they hated each other."

"I had dealt with male-female relationship things a lot in the strips," Evans added. "So I felt I had a lot material there and I’ve always been fascinated by the interaction and the conflicts, what attracts, what repels."

"Why do men and women even get along? Do they? I don’t know!"

"Nope," answered Bets Malone with a smile. She's the director of “A Boy and a Girl.” The production is something of a reunion for her and Evans. She played the character of Luann on stage 30 years ago. This will be the first new work she has tackled as a director.

"It’s a little scary when you don’t have anything, but at the same time it’s kind of freeing. You really truly come up with all your own ideas with the help and collaboration of what’s been written," Malone said.

Director Bets Malone and writer Greg Evans collaborate on the premiere of "A Boy and a Girl" at the Vista Broadway Theater.

Malone says Evans writes for the stage much like he writes for the comic strip, and that means her direction needs to focus on the pacing.

"So some of the scenes go bop, bop, bop, bop, punchline… and if it’s not delivered that way it won’t land. So it’s that whole like set up, set it up, knock it down type of thing," Malone explained.

"Well a comic strip is bum, bum, bum. You’ve got those three or four little boxes to deliver the goods and I tend to write in the same way," Evans said.

And he’s enjoyed the transition to writing lyrics.

"It’s kind of like doing a crossword puzzle. All these pieces need to fit together. You want to build to a punchline if it’s a funny song or you want to build to that dramatic moment," Evans stated.

But how do you make breaking into song seem like a natural thing to a contemporary audience?

"I think the medium of theater allows that over-the-topness," Errington explained. "As a musical actor, a song is really an extension of whatever that acting moment is. It shouldn’t be played as something separate, like we are doing a scene and now it’s a song and now it’s a scene. It should go fluid in terms of a dramatic moment continuing on, rather than a start and stop of something new."

Malone agreed.

"When an actor has no more words, then they sing. And when they have no more they can convey with singing, then they dance. And I believe that," Malone said. "So the trick is building a scene in a way that it deserves the song."

It also helps that the songs tap into things that everyone can relate to like love, friendship, and family. Evans also knows that whether it’s on the musical stage or in his comic strip, humor is often the best way to connect with an audience. And in Vista’s intimate Broadway Theater, he’ll be able to hear that connection loud and clear.

“A Boy and a Girl” runs through Sunday at Vista’s Broadway Theater.

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